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John Wayles Eppes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Wayles Eppes
John w eppes.jpg
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
March 4, 1817 – December 4, 1819
Preceded byArmistead T. Mason
Succeeded byJames Pleasants
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 14th district
In office
March 4, 1803 – March 3, 1811
Preceded byAnthony New
Succeeded byJames Pleasants
In office
March 4, 1813 – March 3, 1815
Preceded byJames Pleasants
Succeeded byJohn Randolph
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
In office
Personal details
Born(1773-04-19)April 19, 1773
Chesterfield County, Virginia
DiedSeptember 13, 1823(1823-09-13) (aged 50)
Buckingham County, Virginia
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Spouse(s)Mary Jefferson Eppes
Martha Burke Jones
ChildrenFrancis W. Eppes
Alma materHampden–Sydney College
ProfessionLawyer, planter, politician

John Wayles Eppes (April 19, 1773 – September 13, 1823) was an American lawyer and politician. He represented Virginia in the U.S. House of Repfresentatives (1803–1811, 1813–1815) and in the U.S. Senate (1817–1819), after serving in the Virginia House of Delegates (1801–1803). A member of the wealthy planter class, he was related through his mother to Martha Jefferson, the wife of Thomas Jefferson, with whom Eppes was close.[1]

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  • ✪ Martha Jefferson: An Intimate Life with Thomas Jefferson


>> Doug Swanson: Good afternoon, everyone. I would like to welcome you all to the McGowan Theater located in the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. I'm Doug Swanson. I just want to tell you about a few things coming up here in the future. I hope you will be able to join us this Friday, which is March 6th, at noon for a special author talk to help launch our new exhibits "Spirited Republic, Alcohol in the American History." Journalist and author Mark Will-Weber will discuss his book "Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking". The Exhibit can be found in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery on the main exhibit level and will run through January 10th of 2016. Then on Thursday March 12th at noon , Thomas Fleming will talk about "The Great Divide: The Conflict Between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation."To find out more about these and our other public programs and exhibits, please take one of our monthly event calendars which you will find in the racks in the theater lobby or you can visit our Web site at Our topic for today is "Martha Jefferson: An Intimate Life with Thomas Jefferson" by William G. Hyland, Jr. Mr. Hyland, a native of Virginia, is the author of the book "In defense of Thomas Jefferson" nominated for the Virginia Literary Award. He has authored "Long Journey with Mr. Jefferson, a biography of famed historian Dumas Malone." A professor of law at Stetson University College of Law. Mr. Hyland is a member of the Virginia and New York Historical Societies. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society. His lectures have included speeches seen on Book TV, University of Virginia, The National Archives. He is also a trial lawyer with nearly 30 years of high profile litigation experience and served on the Florida Judicial Nominating Commission. A former prosecutor, Mr. Hyland is licensed to practice in the District of Columbia, Florida, Alabama, Colorado, and the United States Supreme Court. Before law school, Mr. Hyland worked with top secret security clearance with arms control in disarmament agencies and the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Strategy. The publications also inclusively action published in the American Journal of Trial Advocacy and Law versus National Security when lawyers make terrorism policy, University of Richmond Global Law and Business. Please join me in welcoming William G. Hyland, Jr. back to the National Archives. (applause). >> William G. Hyland, Jr.: Good afternoon. It is nice to be back. I thought I would have brought a little good weather back with me. I just flew up from Tampa, Florida, yesterday. And it was a brisk 79-degrees and sunny, so I have to fly out tonight before we get hit with 6 inches of snow because spring training is calling me back. Thank you for coming out in bad weather. I appreciate it. Martha Jefferson, Martha Jefferson was Thomas Jefferson's good law, kindred spirit, and his wife for ten years.She tragically died in childbirth at the tender age of 33. A year after the bloody Revolutionary War ended, Martha Jefferson lay near death. She feebly held up three fingers to Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson's face was set hard as he stared into Martha's red-rimmed eyes, hazel eyes, that he affectionately called Patty. She asked him on her deathbed for a secret promise. After she died, she asked him never to marry again. The edge of almost manic desperation permeated her tone. The words had a double ominous meaning for both her and Thomas Jefferson. The thought of her own harsh stepmother's invaded Martha's protective thoughts for her three young daughters, Polly, Patsy, and Lucy. Jefferson wiped away a single tear and chastely kissed her on the forehead and agreed to her dying plea. He looked into her hazel eyes and said he would never, ever marry again after she died and he never did. Jefferson's attempted screens and cries of anguish when she died came out as a complete shock to him. He was so overwhelmed at her death that he literally fainted. He toppled backwards and was caught by his sister-in-law and two servants, Betty and Nance Hemings from actually hitting the ground. He fainted. They were sobbing over him and trying to revive him. They thought he was going to die himself. Grief stricken and nearly suicidal, Jefferson secluded himself in his library for almost three weeks. His face was a frozen mask of grief. He thought nothing could ever wound him so deeply or jolt his mind so near to the boundaries of insanity. If not for his 10-year-old daughter Patsy who was a lifeline in a torrential sea of pain, there was no doubt that Thomas Jefferson, age 39, patriot, author, statesman, politician, farmer, scientist would have died from his own hand or from a broken heart. Who was Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson? And how did she influence perhaps arguably the most important American in history? What was their life like at their mountainside home of Monticello during the darkest days of the bloody Revolutionary War? She endured six pregnancies, the death of four children while running a household and two plantations, not only Monticello but her father's plantation called The Forest. What was her relationship with the famous Hemings' servants of Monticello and the infamous Sally Hemings herself? What did Martha look like? Was she a kind matriarch or cruel like her two stepmothers? What was her relationship with Thomas Jefferson's mother, her mother-in-law Jane Randolph Jefferson? Jefferson's controlling and somewhat eccentric mother. Martha Jefferson is a little known and elusive figure in history. She has been all but lost to history until now. By gleaning anecdotes and quotes from a myriad of sources, my book tries to present Martha as a vivid character rather than merely the dutiful wife of Thomas Jefferson. Instead of having a frosty respect for Martha, as a woman who endured seven difficult pregnancies and life-threatening pregnancy, I hope the reader will experience a visceral appreciation of this woman who helped her husband every step of the way to climb the scales to the zenith of political greatness. Martha's resolve, courage, and steadfastness patriotism, these exemplary virtues were forged through a lifetime of hard work, emotional distress but most importantly through a deep and abiding love of family. A portrait of Martha emerges as a woman who had charm, sophistication, grace, education, and a profound sense of family while enduring a bloody Revolutionary War. Martha would have been an exceptional woman in any era, but for her to do what she did in the 18th century America given attitudes about women was truly remarkable. Martha has been overshadowed by the other elemental women of the Revolution: Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison, Martha Washington. But she was no less a fervent and passionate patriot whose tireless pursuits on behalf of her family and her country proved just as crucial to the forging of a new nation as the rebellion that established it. Martha endured the revolution as valiantly as some men, defending her very doorstep at Monticello from the raiding British invasion, especially the bloody dragoon by the name of Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton wanted to capture Jefferson, hang him in front of his family and the townspeople of Charlottesville, and then draw and quarter his body. Not a pleasant experience for his family. Thomas Jefferson did not sit for a portrait until after his wife's death, and no likeness of Martha was ever put to canvas as far as we know. This picture is a modern day depiction from what we have from descriptions of her. According to family tradition, Martha was auburn--haired and hazel-eye with, quote, a life and exquisitely formed figure, a model of graceful and queen-like carriage. Mrs. Jefferson was small, recalled the Monticello slave, Isaac Jefferson, and a, quote, pretty lady. Family members described her as distinguished for her beauty, her accomplishments, for solid merit. Quote, a little above medium height and, quote, slightly but exquisitely formed. Her complexion of brilliant and her large expressive eyes were the richest shades of hazel. To judge from traditional family description, Martha had a striking resemblance to Venus, a portrait and sculpture that Jefferson owned. Like the captivating statue, Martha was reportedly distinguished for her rare beauty. Her skin, although described as fair, was free of the red freckles that Thomas Jefferson had. Martha was also vivacious, well-read, intelligent, and musically gifted. She had a sparkle about her that radiated to everybody she met. Her sister Tabatha's husband, Robert Skipwith, knew her well and said she was the greatest fun of good nature and sprightliness. She moved with grace when she walked or danced or rode a horse. And there was a distinctly musical lilt to her charm. Martha sang beautifully and played the piano and the harpsichord with, quote, uncommon skill. Genial in conversation, she exhibited both excellent sense and a lively play of fancy. Her personality exhibited, quote again from family members, frank, warm-hearted and impulsive disposition. She was a favorite with her husband's sisters, with his family generally, and with her neighbors. Her family connections were impeccable, even for a Randolph, like Jefferson's mother, Jane Randolph. And her social skills according to her grandchildren were considerable. She not only impressed a French aristocrat but during the Revolution, she also became warm friends with a family of a Hessian baron who was prisoner of war in Charlottesville. It is these fascinating details that breathe life into Martha Jefferson, the most famous woman in American history that no one knows really anything about. She was a woman of her time with all the graces and vanities. Can we blame her if she spent a little bit too much money at the dressmaker shop in Williamsburg as instanced by a bill called for her long after her death or fretted over being replaced in her husband's affections too soon? I have attempted a meticulous recovery of Martha Jefferson. Not all but most historians feel when we look back, Thomas Jefferson is now mingled with an acute sense of loss of Martha, devoted wife, beloved mother, and fiercely loyal daughter. She was probably the Revolutionary woman most taken with the ages' liberal prescription for enlightenment, gentility, and refinement due in large part to her father and her husband's profound influences. To become a natural aristocrat one had to acquire the attributes of a natural aristocrat, enlightenment, gentility, and taste. We shall never understand a young Martha Jefferson until we appreciate the intensity and earnestness of her desire to become cosmopolitan, gentile in a most enlightened, quote, lady. Whether Martha had that desire from childhood, fostered by her father and accelerated by her famous husband, we shall never know. Yet, the desire blossomed from a young age at times forced by circumstances beyond her control. Thomas Jefferson still survives, were the dying words of John Adams. And they are true today as they were in 1826. But Martha Jefferson also survives in spite of Jefferson's attempt to erase her from prying eyes, the sacred enemy, a lover as he stated. He burned all of their correspondence. He burned all of their letters. And he gathered up all the letters from neighbors. Martha's ghost haunts the scenes of her life with as lively a passion as when Maria Cosway wrote to Jefferson years later after her death querying whether his future at Monticello would be haunted by, quote, the shadow of a woman. Indeed, Martha is everywhere on the mountain. She's in Williamsburg, Charles City, Eppington, The Forest, Bermuda Hundred. She survives in the commentaries of friends and neighbors, of her daughters and granddaughters and in the material goods that she left behind. For example, salt shakers to the lock of hair that Jefferson wore in a mourning ring after her death. We know about the other famous women in Jefferson's life, the alleged slave mistress -- and I do emphasize the word "alleged" Sally Hemings -- Jane Randolph, his controlling mother, and Maria Cosway in France after Martha's death. Yet, we virtually know nothing about Martha Jefferson, wife, daughter, mother of six. She was Jefferson's greatest, true love, his only wife and his true kindred spirit. Tragically she was torn from him by her own deep overwhelming desire to give him a family. Martha's fragile body was finally wracked from seven dangerous pregnancies, killing her at the tender age of 33 from complications of childbirth, exacerbated by a form of gestational diabetes and tuberculosis. Emotionally Jefferson never recovered from her death. He never married again true to his promise. I referred to the burning of his correspondence with his beloved Martha. Jefferson's foremost biographer, Dumas Malone remarked, quote, because of this impenetrable silence on his part, probably we shall never know much about Martha Wayles Jefferson and her life with him. Following this assumption, most Jefferson biographers have settled for the usual sketchy descriptions of her, beautiful but slight, a devoted mother, gentile, charming in her behavior and musically gifted. A Hessian officer who was a guest at Monticello wrote that Martha was, quote, in all respects a very agreeable, sensible, and accomplished lady. But this cliche'd and constrained image of Martha as mere refined gentry is now unraveled. She is also an industrious manager of two large estates, both Monticello and her father's plantation called The Forest. My new book discovers new facts about Martha's childhood, her first marriage. She was married before she married Thomas Jefferson. She had a child with her husband before she married Thomas Jefferson, an a little boy by the name of Jack Skelton who died at 3-1/2 before she married Thomas Jefferson. Had some artist been able to capture Martha's lively temperament on canvas, however deep and tragic shadows might have bruted in the background, for all her vivacity, death seemed to follow both her and Thomas Jefferson. Her father outlived three wives, including Martha's own natural mother who died just a week after giving birth to Martha herself. But Martha was an emotionally strong woman who endured one tragedy after another when she finally met Jefferson. He later described their 10-year marriage as, quote, uncheckered happiness. And one of Martha's alleged half-sister, the infamous Sally Hemings, the youngest of the family of slaves she inherited from her father John Wayles -- Wayles himself was the victim of toxic rumor and that he had an affair with Sally's mother, Betty Hemings. Was the rumor true? In all probability, no. I have attempted to take a painstaking look at the evidence into John Wayles, perhaps, the most influential man on Martha Jefferson. While investigating Martha's relationships with the other men in her life, from her father John Wayles to her first husband Bathurst Skelton -- that's quite a name, Bathurst Skelton -- her little boy who died at age 3-1/2 to Thomas Jefferson himself. I have attempted to recreate their relationship in meticulous detail from the food they ate, the music they enjoyed, the books they read, the clothes they wore to the savage wore they endured as husband and wife. But for all their life experiences, in the end their relationship embodied an American love story for the ages. I hope to give the reader an exclusive look at Martha's character who some historians have ceded as bland if she has been mentioned at all. But Martha is shown to be a passionate, sensitive, capable, well-read girl who matured into a tender and accomplished, sometimes willful woman. Martha was no milk sob nor docile. She lost, by Jefferson's own letters, over 100 pound sterlings in cards in January of 1773, although Jefferson abhorred cards and gambling. Martha's temper and vivacity are attested to by her daughter Patsy and her granddaughters and is her strong-minded child rearing. Patsy related one incident where she had been scolded not once but twice by Martha whereupon Jefferson intervened with some gentle words. Martha's granddaughter Ellen Randolph Coolidge celebrated, quote, her whit, her vivacity, and her agreeable person and manners while her great granddaughter Sara Nicholas Randolph added that Martha was, quote, a person of great intelligence and strength of character with, quote, a mind of no ordinary caliber. She was well-educated for her day and a constant reader. She inherited from her father his method and industry. This paragram of white southern womanhood was not all sweetness as even some of her descendants admitted. She had a vivacity of temper which might sometimes border on tartness. But Martha was tender, too. Jefferson told his sensitive daughter Polly that Martha had once remarked at being ill-treated by a neighbor but, yet, she rather, quote, endure two such insults as to offer one. In my book, it is my hope to bring Martha's character to life for the reader with new and revealing dates, the historical period in which Martha matured as a woman, wife and mother was quite simply the greatest and perhaps the most tumultuous in American history. She knew and loved Jefferson during his greatest political writings. And there is new evidence of her influence on these historical documents, especially the Declaration of Independence as well as his governorship of Virginia and brutal Revolutionary War in which her own home was invaded by British troops. Martha and her children barely escaping with their lives. And, finally, new evidence has emerged as to the probable cause of Martha's death. Previously thought to be complications from childbirth, while properly cautious about any long-term diagnosis, diabetes, gestational diabetes, combined with tuberculosis were the likely sources of Martha's complications, woes, and medical complications. Martha's babies grew larger with each birth, a very common symptom of a life-threatening disease. Her final baby, Lucy Elizabeth, weighed an amazing 16 pounds. Finally, Martha played the most essential role in the life of Thomas Jefferson: Lover, friend, and partner in fame who faced the late 18th century with the dangers of frequent childbearing and searing anxiety about infant mortality. It is beyond coincidence that Martha died from complications following labor as did her own daughter Polly, as did Martha's own mother, Mary Eppes. Death and tragedy seemed to follow Martha Jefferson. All the more remarkable then that Martha loomed so large in life and death and in her case the formation of a fledgling nation. Martha Jefferson's pleasures and tragedies and even the personal charms that the family treasured were typical of Chesapeake women of the time. But her crowning achievement was to provide a happiness to Thomas Jefferson and her children. Although Jefferson preserved more than 25,000 letters from his collection, he kept 18,000 letters of his own. He destroyed all of Martha's correspondence with him, going so far as to collect her letters and friends from his neighbors. As biographer Dumas Malone succinctly put it, quote, his wife did not belong to posterity. She belonged to him. Martha Jefferson was buried beneath a great oak on the side of the mountain at Monticello near Jefferson's boyhood friend Dabney Carr and her lost children. She was buried in the 80 square foot graveyard Jefferson had made at the side of the mountaintop in 1773, a year after their marriage. The graveyard had been cleared from the surrounding forest to receive the body of his friend and brother-in-law Dabney Carr who died of 29 of, quote, bilious fever. The spot selected for the graveyard was a sentimental one because the two young men had read and talked together under a great oak tree at this spot and then made a pact that they would both lie there in death one day. When Martha was buried, Jefferson placed on the grave slab a white marble with her birth date and these lines: Quote, to the memory of Martha Jefferson, daughter of John Wayles, born October the 19th, 1748 intermarried with Thomas Jefferson January 1st, 1772. Torn from him by death September 6th, 1782. This monument of his love is inscribed, quote, if in the house of Hades men forget they're dead, yet, will I even there remember you dear companion? Those last words were a quotation from the Iliad in Greek. Jefferson used these words for other reasons than display of classical learning noted his biographer, Dumas Malone. Quote, he thereby revealed his devotion to the initiated while veiling it from the vulgar gaze of the public.In the end, there is only one picture of Martha that lasts, and that is a woman who deeply loved Thomas Jefferson. Martha's laughter still rings in the south pavilion and the trills of her harpsichord echo in the parlor. Her step sounds in the beer room and her directing voice in the kitchen. Martha's spirit breathed life into both Monticello and Thomas Jefferson, so much so that Jefferson could not bear to face Monticello without her. He had to change it radically in an attempt to mute Martha's strong image. He never did. Thank you very much. (applause). I will be glad to answer any questions if you have any.>> Hi, thank you. I'm going to be a recently retired infectious disease specialist. I was intrigued, you said the evidence about her cause of death, especially the tuberculosis -- the diabetes makes sense if she had a 16-pound baby. If she -- do you how they came up with that diagnosis? If she had pulmonary tuberculosis, there would have been a high chance that Jefferson himself would have had tuberculosis. >> William Hyland, Jr.: Right. From some of the surrounding women in the Chesapeake Bay area, they found there was a large outbreak of tuberculosis in and around of the years of her death. But there is no doubt in my mind that she died from complications. Her body just wore out. >> The diabetes makes sense. >> William Hyland, Jr.: The gestational diabetes definitely. But she had six children in ten years. And four of them died. So her body was literally wracked by these pregnancies one after another. And I think Jefferson had a lot of guilt, quite frankly, after she died. There was some letters and notes in some of his papers, certainly I think he kind of felt that it was kind of his fault. >> You also said that you concluded that there is no evidence that Sally Hemings was her father's daughter. Do you know how that came about? >> William Hyland, Jr.: Yes. >> Because I don't think there's any doubt that the Hemings did come from Jefferson and Hemings, the subsequent Hemings. >> William Hyland, Jr.: Yeah, no. Well, my first book -- my first book "In Defense of Thomas Jefferson," talks about the whole DNA of Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson, let me make this clear -- I'm probably the only historian who says this. Thomas Jefferson did not have a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings. >> So those reunions they are having are not -- >> William Hyland, Jr.: It was a Jefferson. It was not Thomas Jefferson. But I go into a lot of detail about John Wayles, her father, because he is alleged to have been Sally Hemings' father with Betty Hemings. I did a painstaking investigation. There was no documentary evidence. Sally Hemings was born after John Wayles died, number one. Number two, she was born at a plantation called guinea which was about a three days hard ride at his plantation at The Forest. He was completely sick and debilitated in the last year of his life. So in all probability, he was not having a sexual relationship with Betty Hemings at a different plantation. Anyway, that's for a different lecture. >> Last year I read a book and I think it was "Mr. Jefferson's Women," something like that. And the author went through systematically and talked about the way that Thomas Jefferson interacted with women, talked about the relationships with them, and concluded that he was really a misoginist who didn't like women and proved it, whatever. And I do think -- if I can remember correctly, it did admit that the relationship was a love relationship with his first wife, but it was quite convincing about these other relationships. Have you heard of this book? >> William Hyland, Jr.: I have read it. It is Jon Kukla book called "Mr. Jefferson's Women." >> Yes. >> William Hyland, Jr.: Completely disagree with his theory. He was, of course, a man of the 18th century. And you cannot -- people, historians, want to bring him out of the 18th century and into the 21st century. And I think that is a mistake. He had the traditional view of women in the 18th century, that they were -- the main goal was to produce children and support the family. A misogynist? No. He loved women. He was surrounded by women, his mother, his sister who Dabney Carr was married to, his daughter Martha actually moved in with him with her 12 children, his wife. He was the patriarch to all of these women. So he was surrounded by women. He loved women. But having said that, he had the traditional view of an 18th century man. >> Thank you. >> You made reference during your talk about her influence on his writings during the time they were married. And you said there was no evidence. Can you elaborate a little bit on that? >> William Hyland, Jr.: The ten years that they were married, he had his greatest political writings: Declaration of Independence, notes on the state of Virginia. He tried to emancipate the slaves as a burgess.It is my theory that Martha's relationship with the Hemings, that Betty Hemings was basically a surrogate mother to her. Her own mother died in childbirth. She had two mean step mothers who were never, ever mentioned in Jefferson's memorandum books. But she felt a kinship with Betty Hemings and the Hemings. I think it was this influence that influenced Jefferson to want to emancipate the slavery. You know, Thomas Jefferson was the President who abrogated, who abolished the slave trade with Africa. He gets pegged very harshly, in my view, as a slave owner. He absolutely was a slave owner, but I think it was her views, her unique kinship to the Hemings that affected his views on slavery. He didn't think they were equal to him, but he did believe in the emancipation, the eventual emancipation of slavery. That quote, that portion of the Declaration of Independence was removed by other members of the convention. But I think it was her, really her relationship with the Hemings that affected his views on slavery especially. >> One more quick question. How did a hardnosed lawyer get involved with a romantic topic such as this? >> William Hyland, Jr.: Great question. I ask myself that a lot. You know, it came really -- it was an idea from my father who gave me a lot of the evidence to write a law review article about the DNA evidence about Thomas Jefferson. And when I -- he gave me all this evidence, I just couldn't believe it. The DNA was never taken from Thomas Jefferson. All the DNA matched was a male Jefferson. And I kind of began to look at all the evidence and the relationship and the accusation that he had an affair with a 14-year-old slave girl beginning in France. And it literally as his granddaughter said was a moral impossibility, just not true. So, anyway, that's where I kind of got the notion for the first book and then it kind of snowballed after that. >> So is there any reasonably close precision on who the male Jefferson was? >> William Hyland, Jr.: You have to read my first book. Randolph Jefferson his younger brother, who was at Monticello nine months before Sally Hemings gave birth, who went out and partied with the slaves. Sally Hemings' children were rumored to be fathered by Uncle Randolph. Randolph Jefferson was known as Uncle Randolph at Monticello. It probably was Randolph Jefferson. But in all probability, Sally Hemings had more than one lover. Betty Hemings, her mother, had at least three lovers, black and white. But she probably had more than one lover. But it was not Thomas Jefferson. >> And Randolph Jefferson is Thomas Jefferson's uncle or his younger brother? >> William Hyland, Jr.: Younger brother, 12-year ne'er-do-well partying younger brother. >> I will pick up your books, I guess, at some point. >> Does Thomas ever state that he didn't remember because of the deathbed promise or is that conjecture? >> William Hyland, Jr.: It is conjecture within a reasonable degree of probability because she asked him and it was witnessed by family members and the slaves. I don't think he ever found anybody that he felt in love with so much as he fell in love with Martha. Maria Cosway came very, very close in France. She was kind of the second Martha Jefferson, but she was married at the time. And they had kind of a month-long flirtatious, not a sexual relationship but more of a friendship. But I don't think he ever found somebody that had all the quality he was looking for many Martha: Beautiful, intelligent, from a great family, his intellectual equal. >> Would you mind telling us a little bit about Martha's first husband and how he became her first husband? Did he die? Was there a divorce? And then how did Thomas and Martha actually meet? >> William Hyland, Jr.: Not a lot is known about Bathurst Skelton. But he did die of they think some sort of fever. But it is really interesting because he knew Thomas Jefferson. They went to William and Mary together. The Skeltons were a fairly famous family in Virginia. So they met. They married. They had a child. But a year after they met and married, he died suddenly. But they had a little baby, Jack Skelton. So she moved back with her father to The Forest. She had a little baby and she was widowed. In all probability, she probably met Jefferson, as I say in the book, at one of the balls, either in Williamsburg at the governor's palace or at her father's home at The Forest because you have to remember, John Wayles had four daughters. And he was trying to get them married. That's the way in the 18th century that you got to introduce a man and a woman. You threw a ball. So it was probably a ball at her father's home that they first met because there is recorded evidence that he came to visit her on several occasions at The Forest. That was something surprising to me. I did not know she had been married before and had a child before. >> (speaker off microphone.) >> William Hyland, Jr.: If I can bring it back up --- I don't think I can. The one on the left was a 20th century artist that was put in a portrait book of the President's wives. And he did a recreation of it from the modern description from her family members. The other lady was a French lady that supposedly looked like her but it was -- she's -- that was not -- it is not Martha Jefferson, but it is a period of her time that she looked with the auburn hair, the hazel eyes and painted in the 18th century. So no portrait as we have found out exists of Martha Jefferson. And if it did, Jefferson probably destroyed it. >> If you wouldn't remind the questions since they are not going to the microphone. >> (speaker off microphone.) >> William Hyland, Jr.: That's a great question. Why did he destroy all the letters and was that typical of the 18th century? Actually, Martha Washington, I believe, destroyed most, if not all of her letters with George Washington. I will have to check my facts. But I think she also did that, too. But he was so overwhelmed with grief and he was such a private person that he did not want anyone to know his business, especially his love life. I mean, he was just a nut about his privacy at Monticello. He had shutters put over his private study because people were always coming up after his presidency to see him. I think he was so overwhelmed with grief that the ten years of uncheckered happiness, he could not believe they were over and that was part of his grieving process. Certainly from a 20th century standpoint, that's not how we grieve or how somebody does grieve but as his biographer said, she belonged to him, not a historical record. >> You indicated he wrote about 25,000 letters and roughly 7,000 were to Martha? >> William Hyland, Jr.: We don't know how many because he destroyed them all. He kept 18,000 letters himself because he was -- >> On his famous copying. >> William Hyland, Jr.: Polygraph machine. >> Did he have this copying thing when he was writing to Martha? And what do you know about the circumstances of his burning the letters? Was it one big bond fire several years later, two months later, three weeks he was in the study? >> William Hyland, Jr.: We don't know, but in all probability it was during the time right after she died within a few months. >> When he was 39? >> William Hyland, Jr.: When he was 39 that he destroyed all their correspondence. The polygraph machine I think was invented by him after her death in 1787. She died in 1782, I think. If I have my facts correct, the polygraph, the original, I think, is at the Smithsonian here and there is a copy at Monticello. But I think he invented that after her death. But, again, he wanted to save all his memories for himself, not a historical record at all. So I believe from all the evidence, all the letters I read, it was this two-month grieving process that he secluded himself in his den, in his office, that he probably destroyed all the correspondence. >> Could you enlighten us a little bit more about how his older daughter kept him from potentially committing suicide? >> William Hyland, Jr.: Patsy was 10 years old at the time. He had two daughters at the time. Patsy and Polly, three, I'm sorry, Patsy and Polly and Lucy. Patsy and Polly were the only two to grow up to adulthood. Patsy, she loved to ride horses. Jefferson loved to ride horses. When he finally emerged -- and I think she wrote in her memoirs that he emerged as a ghost from an tomb when he finally came out of his den. All he wanted to do was go out into the forest and ride and have his mind blanked. In fact, she described him riding and he was so distract that he almost fell over one time and she actually had to grab him from falling off the saddle because his mind was still on the grief. And he wrote another letter to, I believe it was Edmond Randolph saying he swoons every time he sees his children and he said something about if it was not for my filial obligation, he would join Martha. >> So he had a belief in the afterlife strongly? >> William Hyland, Jr.: That's a whole other conversation. >> Yes, I understand. >> William Hyland, Jr.: He made references to God. In the end, though, he probably believed in what's called intelligent design and not a God. Yes, ma'am? >> (speaker off microphone.) What was the relationship with the 16-pound child? >> William Hyland, Jr.: Lucy Elizabeth. He took care of her, but he was, again, so distraught at her death that he accepted to be minister of France. He wanted to get away from Monticello, her death. And he actually left the two little girls, except Patsy, with his aunt, his sister-in-law, Martha's sister. I believe her name was Mary Eppes, but don't quote me on that. So he took Patsy, the 10-year-old, and went to Paris as minister of France. He left her in the care of the aunt. The little baby, the 16-pound baby died about a year later of whooping cough. And that's when he asked that the other daughter, Polly be sent over to France. This is where the whole Sally Hemings myth comes in, that he sent for Sally Hemings. No, he didn't send for Sally Hemings. He sent for his other daughter Polly. And he asked for an adult nurse to come with her to make the ocean voyage. That adult female got sick. She was pregnant. So the aunt took it upon herself to send Sally Hemings with Polly because they were both about the same age and she thought that would be a good travel mate for her because she didn't want to go. The baby Lucy Elizabeth died. >> One more off topic. About a quarter a century ago, I went to -- there was a two-day thing about Thomas Jefferson at UVA. And it was either sponsored by a large part, a Providence foundation tied to some church in Charlottesville that claimed to have evidence -- I didn't really believe it -- that Jefferson had been involved in founding a church. Do you know anything about that at all? >> William Hyland, Jr.: I don't know anything about that. >> Okay. >> William Hyland, Jr.: He did go to church. He was married, I believe, in an Episcopal Anglican ceremony at his father-in-law's estate. And there was a minister there who actually gave some religious vows. I don't know about him founding that. He founded the University of Virginia. But he did have his own Bible which he kind of cut and paste and made his own Jefferson's Bible which, again, I think the original is in the Smithsonian right across the street. >> Thank you. >> William Hyland, Jr.: Thank you. >> Doug Swanson: Thank you for coming. >> William Hyland, Jr.: Thank you so much. (applause)


Early life

Eppes was born at Eppington, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, the sixth child and only son of Elizabeth (née Wayles) and Francis Eppes on April 19, 1773. His father was a first cousin and his mother was a half-sister to Martha Jefferson.[2]

After being taught by tutors, Eppes attended the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia, and graduated from Hampden–Sydney College in Virginia in 1786. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1794, commencing practice in the state capital, Richmond.

Marriage and family

Eppes married his first cousin Mary Jefferson (known as "Polly" in childhood and "Maria" as an adult) on October 13, 1797 at Monticello.[1] They resided at Mont Blanco plantation in Chesterfield County, Virginia.

The couple had three children:[2]

  • An unnamed boy, born December 31, 1799, who lived only weeks
  • Francis W. Eppes (September 20, 1801 – May 30, 1881)
  • Maria Jefferson Eppes (February 15, 1804 – February 1806)

Mary died at Monticello on April 17, 1804, two months after the birth of Maria, and is buried there beside her mother. Two of her children are also buried there.[3]

On April 15, 1809, Eppes married Martha Burke Jones, daughter of Willie Jones, a prominent North Carolina planter and politician. They had six children.[1]

Betsy Hemmings

After Mary's death in 1804, Eppes moved his household and slaves from Mont Blanco to another of his plantations called Millbrook in Buckingham County, Virginia. Among the slaves was Betsy Hemmings, the mixed-race daughter of Mary Hemings and granddaughter of Betty Hemings.[4][5] According to her descendants, Hemmings became a concubine to Eppes in a relationship that began when he was a young widower. She bore his son, Joseph, likely named for her brother.[6] She named their daughter Frances,[4] a name traditional among men in the Eppes family.[5] She lived at Milbrook for the rest of her life,[7] and when she died in 1857, was buried next to John Wayles Eppes in the family cemetery there.[4][8]

Political career

Eppes was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1801 to 1803. On March 4, 1803 he was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the Eighth United States Congress and the next three succeeding Congresses, so he was frequently away from his plantation. He chaired the Ways and Means Committee for the Eleventh Congress but failed to be elected to the Twelfth. He spent the next two years at his plantation, Milbrook.

He was elected to the Thirteenth Congress (March 4, 1813 – March 4, 1815) and chaired the Committee on Ways and Means again. After losing the election to the Fourteenth Congress, he was elected to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1817, until December 4, 1819, when he resigned because of ill health. He chaired the Committee on Finance during the second session of the Fifteenth Congress.

Retirement and death

Late in life Eppes suffered from various ailments. He died at Millbrook on September 13, 1823, and was buried in the Eppes family cemetery at the Millbrook.


  1. ^ a b c Looney, J. Jefferson and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography (April 14, 2016). "John Wayles Eppes (1772–1823)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Maria Jefferson Eppes", Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, Monticello website
  3. ^ "Mary "Maria" Jefferson Eppes". Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Jacques, Edna Bolling. "The Hemmings Family in Buckingham County, Virginia". Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Betsy Hemmings", Hemings Family/People of the Plantation, Monticello, accessed February 14, 2011
  6. ^ Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello, New York: W.W. Norton, 2008, Frontispiece: "The Hemings Family Tree-1," pp. 127-128
  7. ^ "Betsy Hemmings: Loved by a Family, but What of Her Own?", Plantation & Slavery/Life after Monticello, Monticello, February 14, 2011
  8. ^ Laura B. Randolph, "THE THOMAS JEFFERSON/SALLY HEMINGS CONTROVERSY: Did Jefferson Also Father Children By Sally Hemings' Sister?" Archived 2012-01-19 at the Wayback Machine, Ebony, February 1999, accessed February 16, 2011

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Anthony New
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 16th congressional district

March 4, 1803 – March 4, 1811
Succeeded by
James Pleasants
Preceded by
James Pleasants
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 16th congressional district

March 4, 1813 – March 4, 1815
Succeeded by
John Randolph
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Armistead T. Mason
 U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Virginia
March 4, 1817 – December 4, 1819
Served alongside: James Barbour
Succeeded by
James Pleasants
This page was last edited on 15 April 2019, at 07:09
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